Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The City of Abraham?

Turkish archaeologists claim to have discovered the city of Abraham near Kilis in Turkey (news report here, repeated here).

The site (which appears to be Oylum, just a few miles east of Kilis, which is about thirty-five miles north of Aleppo and only five miles from the border between Syria and Turkey) is said to have occupation levels dating to the Chalcolithic, and been occupied since the Early Bronze Age. It is also said to have some Hittite documents, and coins from the time of Alexander the Great. The excavator, Atilla Engin, claims that an Iron Age papyrus says that the site was where Abraham lived. He also refers to clay tablets in Hittite which are said to support the idea that the site was the ancient city of Ullisu.

An overview of past excavations (since the 1980s) can be found here. Surface surveys were conducted in the 1960s, and an Italian team went through in the late 1960s. Since the 1980s the work has been done by the Turks, first under Prof. Dr. Engin Özgen and now under Atilla Engin. Some interesting points: The city was burned twice in Middle Bronze II, and the inhabitants seem to have been poorer than at earlier times.

Whether the claims that this is the city of Abraham, or that this was ancient Ullisu are intriguing but remain to be seen. I have not seen the excavation reports or publications of the clay tablets or the papyrus. The site is in the right general area for the Book of Abraham's Olishem. Whether it is Olishem is too early to tell. News from the site will be worth watching.